by Matt Benoit
Besides thorough gluttony and attempts to treat Native Americans with actual respect, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday about family.
This harkens back to the first Thanksgiving feast of 1621, when the Pilgrims decided to take stock of who hadn’t died during the previous year and—with an autumn harvest more abundant than Herman Cain harassment allegations—throw a real par-tay.
Today, there is nothing better than getting a phone call from a relative you haven’t seen in a few years, telling you they’re really excited to visit this Thanksgiving but are no longer on-schedule because Uncle George made an inappropriate comment to a TSA official and is now being strip-searched.
Finally, after the family members arrive and Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited” plays while you hug them in slow-motion, it’s time to get down to the real business of Thanksgiving: Remembering why you haven’t seen your relatives in a while, and then getting into petty arguments with them.
And last but not least, you realize your family is just plain weird.
This occurred to me recently while reflecting back on some of the things my family has done when together.
For instance, on a 1997 family vacation to the Chicago area to visit relatives, most of one entire day was spent at our relative’s hearing aid business, getting our ear canals checked and cleaned out.
For hours, we actually sat there and watched, on a closed-circuit television along with our earwax-removing relative, as she stuck forceps in each of our ears and yanked out gobs of brown-orange gunk. It was like a bad family counseling session. No secrets were to be kept—grandpa couldn’t lie about how much wax he was hiding in his left ear canal anymore.
And my mom’s side of the family only seems to ever congregate en masse at funerals. This is a problem, because each time we meet, there is always one less of us than there was the last time we convened. It’s like a bad slasher film where the group of hapless victims meets back up and one person is missing, and then everyone wonders who’s next.
Thanksgiving is also a time for getting those amazingly awkward family photos.
Especially awkward are pictures of people eating. These capture timeless Kodak moments of your relative, with eyelids closed in mid-blink and a forkful of food headed for their opening mouth, giving the impression they are preparing to French-kiss the mashed potatoes.
The most awkward family photo I’ve ever personally been apart of involves my great-grandmother’s casket viewing when I was 10. In this photograph, presumably taken by the funeral director, our family is standing huddled around with varying degrees of sadness etched into our faces, and I look immensely traumatized.
The overwhelming awkwardness, though, comes from the fact you can actually see my great-grandmother lying in repose in the open casket behind us.
So, my point is that this Thanksgiving, when you feel like starting a food fight at the dinner table after your aunt mentions she agrees with everything Rush Limbaugh says, don’t. Instead, picture her naked and—no, wait, DON’T do that.
What I meant was, mentally picture all the love you and your relatives have for each other. Picture the fact that Uncle George seems to be enjoying his TSA pat-down way more than he should. Picture the fact that you have enough awkward photos to potentially black-mail any relative you want.
And then pass the pumpkin pie to her with a nice big smile, knowing that in just a few days, she will leave and things will return to normal.
At least until Christmas.
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